Big B4UFLY app update reduces confusion around local drone laws

There’s a new B4UFly app update — and it’s an especially welcome one. The latest B4UFly app update, released in November, adds a layer for state and county data, which may reduce confusion around local drone laws pertaining to where you can and can’t fly.

While the Federal Aviation Administration has its own rules around drone use, some cities and states impose their own rules. Perhaps you can’t fly in certain city parks, or there are certain buildings you can’t fly around. It can be confusing for drone pilots to keep track of all the rules — but the latest B4UFly app update is taking the first step in putting all those rules into one place for easy, straightforward access.

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The first set of localized drone laws in the app come from the city of San Francisco, which was chosen for a number of reasons including that it’s the home of Kittyhawk’s headquarters (oh, and Drone Girl’s), as well as a major city for drone pilots (not only is it a top 20 city in terms of population, but it ranks in the top five most active cities in the B4UFLY app).

And city officials say that educating drone pilots on advisories and requirements for flight has been a challenge.

“We are constantly on the lookout for new innovations that can provide new safeguards for emerging technologies like drones,” said Matthias Jaime, Director, Committee on Information Technology, SF.Gov, in a prepared statement. “Making our rules easier to find, use and access in the most widely used drone safety app is a major enhancement to our outreach efforts. Working with Kittyhawk and sharing our information with B4UFLY is an exciting opportunity.”

The new update also includes the ability to crowdsource advisories from users. Combine that with new authoritative local data sources — and the app makes it much more clear whether it’s safe (or legal) to fly in a certain area.

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“Over the last year, one of the biggest areas of feedback we’ve received has centered around ‘missing advisories,” Kittyhawk founder and CEO Jon Hegranes said in a prepared statement. “Drone pilots are seeking out information — both airspace and local ground rules — to understand where they should operate. When information relevant to takeoff and landing are missing, people question the validity of the data presented.”

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The November update should reduce that confusion, accounting for where you can safely takeoff, land and actually fly your drone. The app update was done in coincidence with the second annual FAA Drone Safety Week, which is essentially one giant virtual campaign designed to highlight a range of drone safety educational topics.

The B4UFly app was initially built by the Federal Aviation Administration, but was not well received by users who called it slow and glitchy. In early 2019, it had an average rating of just 1.5/5 on both the iTunes store and the Google Play Android App store. But in February 2019, the FAA announced that it would hand over the reigns to San Francisco-based software startup Kittyhawk. As part of the deal, Kittyhawk would lead development in an exclusive public-private partnership of the next iteration of the B4UFly app, which would be powered by Kittyhawk’s Platform.

That summer, Kittyhawk released their first major update since taking over control of the app in a release that was widely well-received. So much so, that the app now has 4-star ratings on both Google and iTunes’ stores.

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